Ragdoll played a gig on Friday in Nuneaton.
It was an average of an hour's drive for each of us. Two or three of us had contacted the pub over the week and even that same day asking about arrival time etc... and we'd all been told a pretty typical schedule. Arrive at 7ish, set up, sound check before people arrive and go on at 9ish to finish for 11.
When we arrived I spoke to one of the barmaids who kindly took me upstairs to the venue's big stage. After a brief conversation with the promoter in charge we quickly realized that wasn't where we were playing. That was another show consisting of 4 bands playing at exactly the same time as us, in fact they started about 40 minutes earlier.
1. We wandered back downstairs and located the same barmaid who instructed us to just go ahead an unload, but we couldn't set up until the pool table had been moved, no problem. So we started to unload. We got about halfway through when the barmaid, at least it looked like the same barmaid, appeared.
"You're not setting up now." she snapped. Clearly we were still in the unloading process so we all bit our tongues. "It doesn't take 2 and a half hours to set up does it?"
"Well, it can. Our drummer isn't here anyway."
"We're not moving the pool table so you can't set up."
"You can't just leave all this stuff lying around, people need to get through here."
A little confused that she'd, not 5 minutes ago, instructed us to do this very thing I said. "Ok. So what exactly would you like us to do?"
"How long do you need to set up?"
"We need to set up and sound check, so it takes time. And our drummer isn't here yet."
"You're not sound checking yet are you?" Again I looked around at the scattered equipment.
"How long do you need to set up?"
"I don't know, an hour or so."
"Yeah I guess."
"You and you're on at 9?"
"You tell me."
"Ok if you're on at 9 then you can set up at 8." she stomped off.
This didn't exactly set a good mood. So we stopped unloading, we all had gone to some trouble to make sure we arrived by 7 and now we had to wait 40 minutes before we could even finish unloading. We murmured and slandered and considered just packing up and leaving. But there was money involved and we'd already driven all that way. Shortly after I got a call from the drummer saying that he'd been stuck in traffic for the last 30 minutes and he wasn't likely to be arriving before 8 anyway, great. We considered everything and decided that at some point the manager would appear and we could sort this all out. In my experience, these barmaids never have anything to do with the bands or anything else.
About 15 minutes later the manager appeared.
"Are you guys Ragdoll?"
"On at nine?" he said looking a little puzzled.
"You going to set up?"
"We were told not to and our drummer isn't here anyway."
"Oh, well I'll get the pool table out of the way and we'll close this whole area off so people are trying to get through here."
Within 5 minutes our stage was clear. The barmaid walked in shortly after, huffed, and stomped out.
So that was the beginning of the night. It just got better from here on out.
2. The drummer arrived shortly after 8, in an understandably bad mood. We were running late so we set to getting the drums set up and found the first real hitch of the night. No bass drum pedal... He'd lent his kit to another drummer and had only got it back that afternoon and hadn't had time to check inventory. So we set up anyway and started trying to think of where we could get another one. We were more than 30 minutes from home and all the music stores nearby were closed. I tasked the guitarist with asking all of the bands from upstairs if we could borrow one of theirs. No luck.
3. The next hitch simply defies physics. People were largely ignoring the locked doors and our equipment so we set to taping the cables to the floor with the singers duct tape. Wouldn't you know it, the floor of that venue is the one thing in the universe that duct tape won't stick to, not even a little bit. I've never seen anything like it. I wasn't able to get all the duct tape off one of my cables because it had stuck to itself and the cable to well but we might as well been laying strips of paper on that floor.
4. We got everything set up but had noted that there was a game on each of the many screens around the pub. None of us follow sports and had no idea that it was Eng v Wales in Rugby that night. So every time we played a note we got a room full of angry looks. The manager appeared again and asked us if we could save the sound check for half time, which was about 15 minutes away. Not a problem because we were still on the hunt for a pedal anyway. Half time arrived and we got the sound check underway. We blasted through one song and checked all the levels tat we could and that was it, the venue was kind of a weird shape, so we hoped we got it right.
5. After the sound check a little old man appeared behind the singer. He very curtly beckoned her over and demanded that we keep it down... This put the singer in a stressed and bad mood. Was this the type of audience we were going to be deal with tonight... goodie.
Subtract 1. 9:00 baring in mind we had been told to be finished by 11 the game was still going. Good news, one of the patrons had posted a plea on Facebook and managed to locate a bass drum pedal. She disappeared to go collect it. Yay!
5. The bass pedal arrived as we went on. After a short delay we started our first song and discovered the immovable object of the night. It seems that if duct tape couldn't stick to the floor neither could a drum kit. It moved like it was on ice. We tried everything we could think of, normally we would have just duct taped it down some how but we couldn't. And you thought the non-sticking thing was just a minor annoyance. The final solution was setting heavy things in front of the bass drum and my continual kicking it back into the drummers reach whilst playing. Between songs we'd reset it.
6. The second song is when the guitarist's £65 guitar lead decided to stop working. After a number random guitar cut outs I provided him with a new but shorter lead. This created a new problem where as because he was used to having more room, he kept knocking the lead out of his guitar or pedalboard. It took him two or three songs to get and feel for his new motion range.
7. It was probably down to the moods or the stress but both the drummer and guitarist seemed to really be having a hard time holding on to things. Thankfully they'd both prepared for this and thankfully they'd both over prepared, so disruptions were pretty minimal musically. But it is very very frustrating mentally.
8. The night drew near its close, the end was in site. The audience had been surprisingly positive so we were just starting our second encore when the fates upped their game. 12 bars in to Whole Lotta Rosie the guitarist's D string broke. It picked a good song and a good time because that's a very mid range song and we hadn't done any of the solos yet, D is a pretty important string for that song. When it happened he stepped across stage to bring it to my attention. I just smiled at him, this was really going to test his metal. Thankfully it was our last song, so unless the fates moved quickly they had missed their chance.
It's been a really long time since we'd had many problems on stage. Every band has bad nights but this was something else. Visions of Spinal Tap's exploding drummer were going through my head by the end of the night.
I might be alone in this, I know my guitarist disagrees, but I think it was a great show. It was a shining example of Ragdoll's over all professionalism and ability. Even with all these things going on we played well and the audience loved us. We overcame each obstacle no matter how severe or inconvenient its timing. Sure playing mistakes were made but none of them were anything more severe than what we might experience on any other night.
It was a great show and I was charged by the end. We rock, and this proves it.